Everything Looks Like a Nail

The old adage of “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is something I’ve actually found to be true. Unlike many folksy aphorisms that I delight in dismantling, this one has proven accurate to me time and again.

So use it to your advantage!

Here’s how – limit your tools to healthy ones. Let me give you an example: let’s say you have a nasty habit of dealing with stress via drinking. If alcohol is available to you and you’ve adopted that as your “tool,” then every problem will look like a reason to drink. But if instead you remove the alcohol and start building a habit of dealing with stress by running a half mile, then every stressful situation will start looking like a reason to run.

I do that with this very blog. My co-workers joke about it. Some interesting discussion or problem will come up at work and I’ll get a certain look in my eyes and at least someone will say, “he just found today’s blog post.” And it’s true! Because this blog is, in many ways, my “hammer,” then everything looks like a good topic for a blog post. That’s healthy for me – a natural channel.

If your tools are rage or alcohol or frustration or quitting, then everything that happens to you will fit into the framework you’ve built around those tools. They’re not just solutions, they’re lenses through which you view the problem itself. Change your lens, and the same events in your life will fit themselves into different frameworks.

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